For the masochists: My first fiction effort, a novella entitled Pawn to Queen, won the infamous 3-Day novel writing contest: $200 and publication! You thought Nanowrimo was a grind? Try this one. What better way to spend a weekend?
If you want to know what it did to me, read on.
Tips for the 3-day novelist: Have a plan but be prepared to ditch it. Drink lots of water. Get up and walk around every two hours. Don’t drink a martini until Day 3. Don’t look back at what you wrote, just push forward. Don’t second-guess yourself. Just write a specific type of book. Don’t try to put everything you know into it. Or put everything you know as a concrete noun, but leave aside the world view. It will be there anyway, through your nouns.
My experience: I started Saturday morning of the Labour Day weekend, at work. I was a word processing operator at UBC, and we were allowed a certain file size for personal work. I wrote myself into a corner and down a hole, then back out. Because the file size issue, I had to write ten pages at a time, print them out, then delete them from the computer and write another ten. This is how I wrote the novel.
I didn’t think to put in chapter breaks so the final product has none. I knocked off to go to a BBQ Saturday night, kept the same office hours Sunday, then lost the whole file somehow between Sunday night and Monday morning. Luckily, I had that printout! The shock almost killed me, though. I wrote like a madman, gangbusters right up to the midnight deadline. All that for a pretty light mystery with a protagonist who is neither male nor female.
Alert: One side effect of winning with my first writing effort was that for years, I didn’t understand revision. After that weekend I wrote a novel every four years. I thought revision was fixing sentences and phrases. I didn’t realize revision was “re-vision,” seeing the piece whole, taking it apart and putting it together again until it took the form it was meant to have.
So the fact that I’m an editor now, helping people with their necessary revisions, is incongruous yet in a way, inevitable.
If you don’t have plans for the first long weekend in September, enter this contest. You won’t regret it.
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